Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan uses a Tintin-like “clear line” style to tell a modern story of the effects of terrorism and the search for a life of one’s own. In Tel Aviv, Koby drives a taxi cab. He’s been estranged from his father, so he’s not sure how to feel when a soldier tells him his father might be the unidentified victim of a cafeteria suicide bombing.
The soldier, Numi, tries to talk Koby first into a DNA test to confirm her guess, and then into exhuming the body to know for sure. Koby’s resistant, but the two end up investigating further what happened and who might have seen the victims that day.
The contrast between the horrifying event and the reportorial presentation matches the hero’s attitude. Like any human living in an intolerable situation, his world has become one of mundanities. He doesn’t like to think about his relationships; he’d rather ignore them. It’s the only way to get past the loss of those close to you, and to live on in the face of daily life-threatening risks.
People cling to small tokens of those they thought they’d see again, like the scarf that moves from person to person. They’d almost rather someone be taken from them than realize the alternative: that they’ve been left behind mentally, that the person they cared about can get along fine without them. Being forced to confront how forgettable some people are reminds us of our own mortality. During one of their trips, Numi asks Koby the key question of the book: “Do you think that every time we meet a person we should treat it like it was the last time we ever were going to see them?”
This astoundingly thought-provoking book is one of the best of the year, demonstrating the full power of the comic medium.